Preventing fiery disasters is no laughing matter, and that’s where fire dampers come in — the unsung heroes of building safety. Fire dampers are essential components of HVAC systems that help prevent the spread of fire and smoke.
This blog will discuss what fire dampers are and why they are an integral part of fire protection systems in Singapore, as well as how to maintain them to ensure they are in proper working order at all times.
What Is A Fire Damper?
A fire damper is used in HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems to prevent fire and smoke from spreading through ducts and ventilation openings in buildings. Fire dampers are typically installed in ductwork that penetrates walls, floors, and ceilings and is designed to automatically close when exposed to high temperatures, smoke, or flames.
Importance of A Fire Damper
Fire dampers are vital because they help prevent the spread of fire, smoke, and toxic fumes through buildings’ HVAC ducts and ventilation systems. In addition, they act as a barrier to contain the fire within a compartment or zone, protecting people and property from the harmful effects of fire and smoke.
For example, in the event of a fire, fire dampers automatically close to block air passage and prevent the fire from spreading to other building areas. It can buy valuable time for evacuation and allow firefighters to control the fire better. Fire dampers are a crucial component of building fire safety systems and are often required by building codes and regulations.
Installing fire dampers is mandatory in commercial buildings in Singapore, and facility managers across the country are responsible for their proper repair and maintenance. The buildings must be protected against mishaps like accidental fires. Apart from fire extinguishers and smoke alarms, it is imperative to install fire dampers. These are effective equipment to prevent the fire from spreading — a big reason why fire dampers are often termed as the first line of defence against fire in buildings.
Types of Fire Dampers
There are three main types of fire dampers: static, dynamic, and combination. This blog will closely examine each type and its unique features.
Static Fire Dampers
Static fire dampers are the most common type of fire damper. They are designed to provide a fire-resistance rating of up to 3 hours and are used in ductwork that passes through fire-rated walls, floors, and ceilings.
These dampers are typically installed in a fixed position and do not have any mechanical components. Instead, they rely on gravity or air pressure to close automatically when a predetermined temperature is reached, blocking air passage and preventing fire spread.
Dynamic Fire Dampers
Dynamic fire dampers are designed for HVAC systems that operate under normal conditions and can close automatically during a fire. They are typically installed in ducts exposed to fire hazards and have a fire-resistance rating of up to 1.5 hours.
Dynamic fire dampers have a mechanical component, such as a fusible link or motor, that activates the damper to close when a predetermined temperature is reached. They also have a feature that allows them to open and close periodically to prevent the accumulation of debris and dust.
Combination Fire Dampers
These are a hybrid of static and dynamic fire dampers designed to provide a higher level of protection and are used in ducts that penetrate fire-rated walls, floors, and ceilings.
Combination fire dampers must have a fire-resistance rating of up to 3 hours and have mechanical and gravity components. In addition, they can be either dynamic or static, with the dynamic component closing the damper automatically in the event of a fire and the static component providing additional protection by maintaining a barrier against the passage of fire and smoke.
The Function of Fire Dampers
Time is crucial during a fire breakout, as a small flame takes only 30 seconds to turn into a deadly fire. Thus, it’s imperative to have a first line of defence to save the property and people’s lives inside.
Fire dampers act as the first line of defence during accidental fires, preventing the fire from spreading by cutting down the air supply. This device saves crucial time during an emergency by nipping the problem in its bud.
A fire damper maintains the integrity of the fire, separating elements by automatically closing the passage for a specific period, which prevents the fire from spreading to other parts of the building. Heat-sensitive devices or fusible links create a mechanism to close the damper upon detecting fire.
Even if there is no one in the building, the fire dampers work with absolute precision by shutting down the valves of the HVAC system and not allowing the fire to spread. In addition, they automatically close off air ducts and ventilation openings when they detect high temperatures, smoke, or flames.
The damper consists of a metal frame with a blade or shutter that can be horizontal or vertical and is held in the open position by a fusible link or thermal sensor. When the temperature in the duct or ventilation opening reaches a certain threshold, the link or sensor activates, causing the blade or shutter to close and block the passage of air and smoke.
Fire dampers usually work at a temperature higher than 60◦C; however, some buildings already maintain a high temperature, so the fusible links are set at higher temperatures above 60◦C.
Why Do You Need A Fire Damper?
Fire dampers offer several benefits regarding fire protection, code compliance, insurance requirements, and liability protection.
Fire Protection: Regarding fire protection, fire dampers can be crucial in preventing the spread of fire and smoke through HVAC systems. It can help minimise property damage and protect building occupants by containing the fire in a specific building area. In addition, by preventing the spread of smoke and toxic gases, fire dampers can also reduce the risk of respiratory problems and other health issues caused by exposure to smoke.
Code Compliance: Building codes and regulations often require fire dampers, particularly in high-risk buildings such as hospitals, schools, and high-rise buildings. Therefore, compliance with these codes is essential for safety reasons and to avoid fines and legal liabilities resulting from non-compliance.
Insurance Requirements: Insurance companies may also require the installation of fire dampers as a condition for providing coverage for a building since buildings without fire dampers may be considered at higher risk for damage.
Liability Protection: Installing fire dampers can help to protect building owners and managers from liability in the event of a fire. By taking reasonable steps to prevent the spread of fire and smoke through the building, they can demonstrate that they have fulfilled their duty of care to building occupants and taken appropriate measures to ensure their safety.
Overall, the benefits of using fire dampers are clear, and building owners and managers should consider installing them as part of their fire protection and safety measures.
Installation Process of Fire Dampers
Fire dampers are installed where the air conditioning and mechanical ventilation ducts go inside the floor or wall, facilitating the entry of the ventilated air during normal conditions through the partition, wall, or duct.
But remember that these are usually installed by trained and experienced professionals, like Hart Engineering, who know the electrical and mechanical systems inside a building. In addition, these devices need to be installed at specific locations so that the valves are closed at the right moment when a fire breaks out.
Besides the installation knowledge, the technicians know the building design. Thus, they know precisely where the HVAC system is used and how the wiring has been carried out inside the building. All these things help them to create a proper strategy for installing fire dampers.
Maintenance and Inspection of Fire Dampers
Regular maintenance and inspection of fire dampers are necessary to ensure they function correctly and prevent any failures during a fire emergency. Here are some general guidelines for the maintenance and inspection of fire dampers:
1. Visual Inspection: Fire dampers should be inspected at least once every six months. This inspection involves checking for any signs of damage, corrosion, or deformation. Damaged or deformed dampers should be repaired or replaced immediately.
2. Functional Testing: Functional testing of fire dampers should be performed annually. This testing involves operating the damper to ensure it closes properly and opens when needed. Any issues with the damper’s operation should be addressed immediately.
3. Cleaning: Dampers should be cleaned regularly to remove any debris or dust that could interfere with their operation. The frequency of cleaning will depend on the environment in which the damper is located.
4. Record Keeping: All maintenance and inspection activities should be documented and kept on file. This documentation should include the inspection date, the results of any tests or inspections performed, and any repairs or replacements.
5. Hire a professional: It is recommended to have a professional technician perform maintenance and inspections on fire dampers. These professionals have the experience and expertise to identify potential issues and ensure the dampers function correctly.
Regular maintenance and inspection of fire dampers are crucial to ensure proper functioning during a fire emergency.
By investing in a well-designed and properly installed damper, building owners and managers can provide a safer environment for their occupants and reduce the risk of property damage. Prevention is key, and fire dampers are the crucial tool that can make all the difference.
When it comes to fire safety solutions, Hart Engineering provides top-notch fire dampers that are designed to meet your specific needs and requirements.
Our experts are well-versed in what makes a good fire damper, and we ensure that all our products are of the highest quality. We understand that every building and structure is unique, and we work closely with our clients to provide customised solutions that best suit their needs.
Whether you are looking to install new fire dampers or maintain and service existing ones, we’ve got you covered! Visit our website today to learn more about our services. Trust us to be your partner in fire safety.